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Ready meals not fit for flexitarians

Meat still dominates the ready meal aisles of UK supermarkets, according to an analysis by the Eating Better campaign.

In a survey of 1,350 ready meals, only 3% were plant-based (without meat, fish, dairy or egg), whilst 77% had meat as the main ingredient. Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s offered the most variety in terms of meat-free options, whilst no plant-based options were found in Iceland and only one was available in Marks & Spencer.

The survey also showed that retailers are selling vegetarian and vegan ranges at a premium price, making the options “less accessible to all customers”.

The findings are at odds with an “explosion of interest” in flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets, said Eating Better. A 2017 YouGov survey found that 44% of British people are willing or already committed to cutting down on meat or cutting it out completely. Health, animal welfare and climate change are the main reasons for the shift.

Eating Better also found that only three retailers (Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Co-op) include ingredient meat sourced for their own-brand ready meals in their farm animal welfare policies. While retailers are generally keen to promote the provenance and quality of their fresh meat, this didn’t apply to meat used as an ingredient in ready meals, said the researchers. In fact, nearly 30% of meat-based ready meals did not indicate the country of origin of their meat.